MICROLEAGUE BASEBALL II
Baseball, with its reliance on statistics, lends itself well to a computer-game format. In the days before computers, baseball fans maintained their Walter Mitty aspirations with games like Strat-o-matic and APBA. Dice generated outcomes, and compiling stats took as long as playing the games. The computer changed all that by allowing random-number generation and sophisticated stat compilation. Perhaps most importantly, you can play alone.
MicroLeague Baseball II attempts to fulfill the dreams of tired-wristed dice rollers. Its three booklets describe methods of play and how to build new teams; they also list the qualities of the teams included with the game. Those 23 clubs range from the 1927 Yanks to the 1988 all-star teams. If you want a team with no weaknesses, try creating an all-time-great collection with Jim Palmer and Carl Hubbell as fifth starters, and Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial riding the bench.
You begin by choosing which of the offered teams you wish to represent, which of the teams the Baseball Buddha will play, whether or not you'll use the designated hitter, who will be your starting pitchers, and who will be in your starting lineup. Then the players charge onto the field.
The game's graphics are excellent. Base runners actually run the bases, and outfielders run down flies. There's no variance from park to park, but this would take up memory and not allow for sophisticated play. MicroLeague does offer several other positive attributes besides being pretty. New teams can be easily made; it took me just 15 minutes using the General Managers disk. Also on the plus side are features like bullpen warmups, different base-running options, solitaire and no-play options, ejections, and rain delays.
I found the game's stat compiling, perhaps the most important aspect of any baseball simulation, lacking. Its biggest problem is its inability to compare players. There's no ranking system or standings board, no way to see how a player has done in the middle of a game. At the end of the game, the only stat shown is a simplistic score box.
Play the game from the manager's view-point in MicroLeague Baseball II.
Fanatics who play inside baseball may be disappointed with other omissions as well. MicroLeague II lacks the depth of the real game. There's no reason to platoon, for example, because pitcher handedness means nothing. There is no way to perform the suicide squeeze, and there are no fatigue factors—you can start your number 1 starter every game. All pitchers hit with the same skill; Rick Rhoden has the same average as Rick Camp. Along the same line, there's no rating for hit-and-run ability, bunting ability, clutch hitting, and the pitcher's ability to hold runners on base. The base-stealing ratings make no differentiation between a speed merchant like Ricky Henderson and a selective base runner like Kevin McReynolds. The outfielders have no arm ratings. These are all fine details, to be sure, but they help to create a more realistic simulation of what really happens between the chalk.
How much you'll enjoy MicroLeague II depends on the kind of baseball fan you are. Most fans are casual about their interest. They tune in to see the Mets or Yanks play someone on Saturday afternoon and listen to Vin and Tom on NBC. If that describes you, then you may enjoy creating a baseball-park atmosphere with MicroLeague II. But if you're the kind of fan who looks up stat after stat, who follows baseball like a religion, you may want to stick with your Strato-matic and your dice—sore wrists and all.
IBM PC and compatibles with CGA, EGA, or Hercules graphics—$49.95
MICRO LEAGUE SPORTS ASSOCIATION